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Summary

  1. Pound edges lower amid Brexit 'noise'
  2. UK construction slows in March - Markit
  3. Chancellor Hammond leads India trade trip
  4. Get in touch: bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk

Live Reporting

By Bill Wilson

All times stated are UK

Get involved

Good night

That is all from the Business Live page for tonight. 

See you all bright and early tomorrow from 6am.

Wall Street closes largely unchanged

US shares were largely unchanged at close on Tuesday,  ahead of first-quarter earnings season.

The benchmark Dow Jones rose 39.03 points, or 0.19%, to 20,689.24, the wider S&P 500 gained 1.32 points, or 0.06% to 2,360.16 and the teach-based Nasdaq added 3.93 points, or 0.07%, to 5,898.61

UN agency laments US funding cuts


          A mother nurses her newborn at the maternity ward of the Kailahun Government hospital on April 26, 2016, eastern Sierra Leone
Getty Images

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned a US decision to withdraw all funding to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) could have "devastating effects" on vulnerable women and girls around the world,

UNFPA is an agency that promotes family planning in more than 150 countries.

In total $32.5m (£26m) in funds is being withdrawn for the 2017 financial year.  

The state department said the UNFPA "supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation". It specifically mentioned China.

The Trump administration is looking to cut the US financial contributions to the UN and this is the first agency to be affected.

Overwatch 'cheat-maker' told to pay $8.6m to Blizzard

Blizzard game
Blizzard

The developer of the hit video games World of Warcraft and Overwatch has successfully sued a company that sold "cheat" tools for its titles.

California court ordered  German firm Bossland to pay $8.6m (£6.8m) to Blizzard for 42,818 counts of copyright infringement.

Blizzard had argued that Bossland had reverse-engineered and otherwise altered its games without permission.

It follows related court rulings in the UK and Germany.

Bossland had attempted to have the US case dismissed, but did not defend itself in court,  according to the news site Torrentfreak .

Universal signs long-term deal with Spotify

BBC World Business tweets...

Dimon on US banks

Jamie Dimon
AFP

Perhaps not coincidentally, Jamie Dimon, the boss of the big US bank JP Morgan has backed up President Trump's call for US banking regulations to be cut back.

In a 17,349-word letter to his shareholders, Dimon says regulations on bank reserves and mortgage lending have left banks with "too much capital" which could more usefully be lent to borrowers.

He says that banks are no longer "too-big-to-fail" and that "taxpayers will not pay if a bank fails".

More on Lacker resignation

The BBC's Michelle Fleury tweets...

Fed's Jeffrey Lacker steps down over leak

The Wall Street Journal tweets...

Light, cameras, action... new Scottish film studio

Pentland Studios
Pentland Studios

Scotland's first purpose-built film and TV studio is to be created outside Edinburgh after the Scottish government approved the plans in principle.

It is hoped the vast Pentland Studios development will help attract more feature films and high-end TV productions to the country.

The privately-funded project had been mired in a planning wrangle for the past two years.

Its backers now believe the studio can be operational by the end of next year.

The studio, which will feature six huge sound stages, will be built on about 100 acres of greenbelt land at Old Pentland Farm in the Straiton area.

The decision to approve the plan in principle overturns a  previous recommendation by a Scottish government reporter , who said permission should be refused.

President Trump on the banks

President Trump
EPA

President Trump has said he is working on sweeping reforms to the banking regulations introduced in the United States following the financial crisis in 2007 and 2008.

The president said he was going to give the Dodds-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act a very major haircut. 

Speaking at a White House conference with business leaders, Mr Trump said the aim of de-regulation was to help the banking industry.

"We are absolutely destroying these horrible regulations that have been placed on your heads over, not eight years, over the last 20 and 25 years," he said. 

"You have regulations that are horrendous. Dodd-Frank is an example of what we're working on and we're working on it right now. 

"We're going to be coming out with some very strong... recommendations. 

"We're going to be doing things that are going to be very good for the banking industry so that the banks can loan money to people that need it," he added.

Southern rail dispute

Southern Rail guard
EPA

The RMT trade union has been having more talks about its long-standing dispute with Southern Rain over the role of conductors on some of its trains.

What has happened?

Reuters reports that: "Talks between the RMT and Southern Railway have concluded and both sides will now "consider their positions", said the union."

US market update

Graph of Dow Jones average
BBC

It's just past 13:00 in New York and the Dow Jones average has gone down, then up, then down again since the start of US share trading. The result? The Dow Jones Average is up just three points at 20,653.

Fashion for gluten- and dairy-free continues to grow

Gluten-free products
Getty Images

More than half of us bought a "free from" product during the last three months, according to Kantar Worldpanel.

Younger people are leading a trend towards buying products without dairy and gluten in particular.

UK supermarkets are increasingly stocking aisles with wide ranges of the products, from biscuits to bolognaise.

"Consumers are associating 'free from' with a natural form of health in general," said Fraser McKevitt of the consumer research firm.

Read more here .

RBS plan faces European Commission investigation

Douglas Fraser

Scotland business & economy editor

RBS bank
PA

Plans for the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) are to be scrutinised in an "in-depth investigation" by the European Commission.

The bank has set out plans to abandon the requirement placed on it by the Commission in 2009 that it should sell a large portion of its business.

This is to enable competition to be improved.

RBS carved out the division now known as Williams and Glyn, with assets of £20bn.

But it has failed either to find a trade buyer for the division, or to float it on the stock exchange, at least by the deadline of next December.

Theresa May criticises Cadbury over Easter egg hunt

PM: National Trust 'ridiculous' to drop Easter reference

Theresa May has described the decision to drop the word Easter from the name of Cadbury and National Trust egg hunts as "absolutely ridiculous".

Her comments come after the Archbishop of York said calling the event the Cadbury Egg Hunt was like "spitting on the grave" of the firm's Christian founder, John Cadbury.

But Cadbury said Easter was referred to on much of its packaging and marketing.

FTSE closes higher

Mining stocks led a rise for the FTSE 100, with Fresnillo, Anglo American and Rio Tinto among the four main risers.

The miners closed between 2.4% and 2.9% up, helping the FTSE finish 0.48% higher at 7,317.9 points.

Morrison and Sainsbury fell 2.8% and 2.4% respectively after research from Kantar suggested more pricing pressures facing supermarkets.

The pound was down 0.37% against the dollar at $1.2440, and fell 0.29% against the euro at 1.1663 euros.

Tesla charges on....

Dave Lee

North America technology reporter

Tesla's market cap ($52.7bn) has now surpassed that of General Motors ($49.7bn), making it the most valuable car maker in the US.

Tesla shipped just over 25,000 cars in the last quarter - GM sold 550,000 in the same period.

Toshiba forced to buy 40% of UK's NuGen

Nugen plant
NUGEN

Toshiba has been forced to buy the 40% of the UK nuclear energy company NuGen that it does not already own.

NuGen has the contract to build a new nuclear power plant in Cumbria.

The French utility company  Engie said  it was exercising its "contractual rights" to sell its shares because NuGen was "facing some significant challenges".

Last week, Toshiba's Westinghouse in the US, which was to build the plant's reactors, sought bankruptcy protection.

The troubled Japanese giant said that  only Westinghouse's US operations  would be affected by the bankruptcy.

Amazon enters office supplies market

Amazon worker
Getty Images

Amazon is targeting businesses with a new service selling office supplies, such as laptops, power tools and cleaning products.

Called Amazon Business, the online marketplace offers firms VAT-free pricing, VAT invoices, and software to track and limit spending.

The new venture adds to Amazon's huge range of businesses from online video, to groceries to cloud computing.

Amazon has had success with a similar service launched in the US in 2015.

In its first year of operation in the US, the business supply service generated more than $1bn (£800m) in sales. It launched a similar service in Germany last year.

Orders for US manufactured goods up....

The US census bureau tweets...

'Staples explores sale'

The Wall Street Journal tweets...

Warren Buffett denounces 'esoteric gibberish'

Warren Buffett
Reuters

Every year the US investor Warren Buffett sends a letter to the shareholders in his successful investment firm Berkshire Hathaway.

He sent one - 28 pages long - in February, with a swingeing attack on the high and unnecessary fees charged by the professional investment industry.

It's been well-reported but, as Buffett is in the news today , we thought we would draw your attention to his sage advice:

"Over the years, I’ve often been asked for investment advice, and in the process of answering I’ve learned a good deal about human behavior. My regular recommendation has been a low-cost S&P 500 index fund. To their credit, my friends who possess only modest means have usually followed my suggestion." 

"I believe, however, that none of the mega-rich individuals, institutions or pension funds has followed that same advice when I’ve given it to them. Instead, these investors politely thank me for my thoughts and depart to listen to the siren song of a high-fee manager or, in the case of many institutions, to seek out another breed of hyper-helper called a consultant.

"Large fees flow to these hyper-helpers, however, if they recommend small managerial shifts every year or so.  That advice is often delivered in esoteric gibberish that explains why fashionable investment “styles” or current economic trends make the shift appropriate. 

"The wealthy are accustomed to feeling that it is their lot in life to get the best food, schooling, entertainment, housing, plastic surgery, sports ticket, you name it. Their money, they feel, should buy them something superior compared to what the masses receive. For that reason, the financial “elites” – wealthy individuals, pension funds, college endowments and the like – have great trouble meekly signing up for a financial product or service that is available as well to people investing only a few thousand dollars. 

"Those advisors who cleverly play to this expectation will get very rich. This year the magic potion may be hedge funds, next year something else. The likely result from this parade of promises is predicted in an adage: “When a person with money meets a person with experience, the one with experience ends up with the money and the one with money leaves with experience," he said.   

Government 'wrong on diesel pollution'

'Huge aspiration in India'

Philip Hammond and Arun Jaitley
Getty Images

UK chancellor Philip Hammond has met with Indian finance minister Arun Jaitley on a financial services trip to Delhi.

Mr Jaitley struck a positive note, saying: "The United Kingdom, post-Brexit, is looking at a different level of relationship with India. And there's a huge aspiration in India itself also, to add to, and improve on, this relationship." 

The two ministers highlighted a deal for each country to invest £120m in a joint fund to invest in Indian energy and renewables. 

They also discussed efforts to make India's rupee currency more freely tradeable on international markets, and promote 'masala' bonds for Indian companies to borrow in their own currency from investors in the City.

Bank still worried about personal lending

Ian Pollock

Business reporter

Bank of England
PA

The recent rapid rise in consumer borrowing is still a potential threat to the stability of the UK's financial system, says the Bank of England.

The Bank is concerned about the damage that could be done to the finances of lenders if borrowers default on their borrowing during an economic downturn.

The Bank's continued worries are made clear in the latest minutes of its  Financial Policy Committee (FPC) .

These highlight the growth of credit card, bank loan and car loan borrowing.

Read more here.

UK debit and credit card insights

The BBA tweets...

Ralph Lauren to cut jobs and close stores

Ralph Lauren store
Getty Images

Ralph Lauren says it is to it cut jobs, and close some office and store locations as part of a cost-cutting plan.

This will include its flagship Polo store on Fifth Avenue, New York.

The firm expects to incur about $370m (£297m) in charges related to the plan.

More on the US trade gap

Man counts dollar bills
Getty Images

Analysts had been expecting a fall in the deficit after it soared in January, with revised figures for that month at some $48.2bn, the highest since March 2015.

In February US exports of goods rose 0.2% for the month to $192.9bn, with exports of cars, car parts and engines hitting their highest level since July 2014.

But imports fell 1.8% to $236.4bn, down $4.3bn, driven partly by a $2.6bn decrease in car imports. 

The deficit with China put on $1.6bn to $31.7bn but fell $600m with Japan to $4.9bn.  

US trade gap narrows in February

The US trade gap fell in February to $43.6bn, its lowest level in four months, as imports fell while exports held steady.

Imports of cars, consumer goods, fuel and semiconductors fell. 

Assad uncle's assets seized

'Pink Star' diamond sells for $71m

Pink Star diamond
AFP

A rare pink diamond has broken the world record for a gemstone at an auction, fetching  a hammer price of HK$490m (£50.69m), or HK$553m (£57.21m) after taxes and fees, according to auction house Sotheby's.

The fifty-nine-point-six carat "Pink Star" is the largest polished diamond in its class to go under the hammer. The Pink Star had been sold for a record $83m in Geneva in 2013, but the New York-based buyer defaulted on the deal.

Gold miners lead FTSE

Gold bars
Reuters

The FTSE 100 has held onto most of its gains from the morning and is currently 0.3% higher at 7,307 points. 

Shares in gold miners Fresnillo and Randgold are topping the leader board, helped by the price of the yellow stuff hitting a one-week high.

"The amalgamation of overall geopolitical concerns, political risks in Europe, Brexit woes and Trump uncertainties have boosted the appetite for safe-haven assets with gold in high demand," says Lukman Otunuga, an analyst at FXTM.

Nigeria oil strike ends - after a day

Nigeria oil tanker driver
Getty Images

Oil tanker drivers in Nigeria have ended a strike that threatened to cause massive fuel shortages, reports the BBC's Matthew Patience in Nigeria. 

The workers were protesting over pay and the poor condition of the roads, which damages their vehicles. 

It had been billed as an indefinite strike but in the end it lasted just a day. The union representing the drivers said the government intervened promising to look into its members’ demands.  

Union officials also say that Nigeria’s state-owned oil company agreed to increase transportation fees for its drivers.  

Cambridge houses in graffiti protest

Vandalised houses
Richard Taylor

A development of luxury homes in Cambridge has been spray-painted with graffiti - in Latin.

The new five-bedroom river-front houses were painted with the words Locus in Domos and Loci Populum.

According to Google Translate, the phrase locus in domos means "room in the house", and loci populum means "local people".

Could it be a protest about affordable housing?

But Cambridge University Professor of Classics, Mary Beard, says the meaning isn't clear: "This is a bit hard to translate, but I think what they're trying to say is that a lovely place has been turned into houses."

Whatever the meaning, it strikes us on the Live page that whoever did this was quite determined - they must have brought a ladder.

And they could have been Monty Python's Life of Brian fans.

Web inventor critiques UK and US net plans

Pound edges lower

Pound note and coins
Getty Images

Sterling has slipped against the euro and dollar - with analysts pointing to Brexit "noise" and underwhelming construction data. 

The pound is 0.4% lower at $1.2434 and down 0.2% against the euro at 1.1679 euros. Earlier, it fell nearly 1% to a 12-week low against the yen.

Some analysts said the move was partly linked to political risk, including a report from MPs which questioned the prime minister's assertion that "no deal is better than a bad deal" when the UK leaves the EU.

"For us this is all political noise right now," said ING currency strategist Viraj Patel.

Others said a slowdown in UK construction growth suggested the economy was cooling. That makes interest rate rises less likely, they said.

"It is hard to see how sterling can rally in a meaningful way in this environment," said Kathleen Brooks, an analyst at City Index.

ISPs face 'fibre broadband' probe

Airbus looks to squeeze in more seats

Airbus A380
Reuters

Airbus has developed a new, slimmer staircase for its A380 super jumbo to fit in more seats, Reuters reports .

The plane maker says that introducing a slimmer stairway instead of the double staircase would generate enough space to add 20 extra seats.

Passengers could see the new-look stairs soon - as they'll be available on both existing or new planes.

Mercedes and Bosch in driverless tie-up

Driverless Mercedes cars
Daimler

Mercedes-Benz and Bosch have announced they're teaming up to develop self-driving cars. 

The deal between the two German industrial titans pitches them against tech firms like Uber and Google, as well as most major car makers.

"The prime objective of the project is to achieve the production-ready development of a driving system which will allow cars to drive fully autonomously in the city," Mercedes parent Daimler said in a statement .

Cadbury defends Easter stance


          The Cadbury website mentions Easter - just not in the name of the event
Cadbury

The decision to drop the word Easter from the name of Cadbury and National Trust egg hunts has been described by the prime minister as "absolutely ridiculous" and criticised by senior bishops.

But the chocolate maker has pointed out that Easter is referred to on much of its packaging and marketing. That includes the website promoting the egg hunt itself.

In a statement, Cadbury said it had used the phrase Easter in its marketing for over 100 years and "continue to do so in our current campaigns", adding: "We invite people from all faiths and none to enjoy our seasonal treats."  

Meanwhile, a relative of John Cadbury - the founder of the chocolate maker - said he probably wouldn't be too perturbed by the whole issue. She tweeted...

View more on twitter